skip to content
 

The Marquess of Cholmondeley deposited the bulk of these papers in 1951, the collection subsequently being purchased by the Library. Formerly held at Houghton, the papers include working records of the estate office, papers of the Pell family, and collections relating to various generations of the Walpole family, including a large collection of political papers collected by Sir Robert Walpole, first Prime Minister of Great Britain, in the course of his long political career.

The larger part of Sir Robert's papers consist of reports, memoranda, and petitions. There are abstracts of all papers signed by the Lords of the Treasury, 1718-40, Walpole's own memoranda, and his notes for speeches. While many of the papers duplicate material in the Public Record Office, anyone working on the period 1710-40 will find here, in the words of the historian Sir John Plumb, 'original material of value which is not found elsewhere. There can be no doubt that these papers constitute the most important single collection of this period for English political history.'

Of great interest is the large collection of estate papers that cover a period of about 700 years, including manorial court records, rentals, extents and terriers, title deeds, accounts and legal documents, mostly relating to land in Norfolk.  They provide information about everyday life through the administration of manors and estates owned by the the Walpoles, their predecessors and successors.   A large number of manors are represented, including Bircham Newton, Bircham Tofts, Breckles, East Ruston, Grimston, Hickling and Stanhoe, Horning, Houghton Walpole, North Roughton, Sloley, Syderstone, West Winch, and Weybread and Isted.  Coverage for most of the manors is patchy but the earliest court rolls date from the 1270s.  The title deeds (dating from around 1200) and legal documents are uncatalogued but the manorial court rolls, terriers and accounts are accessible.  There are also wage books and farm accounts from the 18th century, including details of stock.  Although the title deeds and legal documents are uncatalogued, some items of interest have been identified, including the Act of Attainder for Edward Walpole, a recusant Catholic, dating from 1597 (Ch(H)/MiscDocs/Box 28b).

A particularly fascinating series is that containing the receipts, vouchers and details of expenses incurred by household and estate staff covering most of the 18th century.  There seems to an account or receipt for almost every time money was spent on behalf of the household and estates.  This section is extraordinarily wide ranging, including names of women drafted in to gather corn with details of what they were paid, signatures of housemaids receiving their wages, details of building tools and equipment, gamekeeper's expenses and housekeeper's accounts.

An online catalogue of the collection can be found on the National Archives website here

For an introduction to the papers see G.A. Chinnery, A Handlist of the Cholmondeley (Houghton) Manuscripts: Sir Robert Walpole's Archive, Cambridge, 1953. There are also handlists to various areas of the collection available in the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Contact: Sian Collins (01223 333141; sec93@cam.ac.uk)